Elizabeth Becka

AbeBooks Exclusive Interview With Elizabeth Becka

Four long hard years spent as a criminal forensic scientist in Cleveland gave Elizabeth Becka the inspiration for her debut novel - a crime thriller called Trace Evidence.

"Almost every case that I worked on involved a homicide as I was based in the coroner's office," said Elizabeth, who is quick to correct any assumption that working in a so-called ‘CSI' job is glamorous. "On a routine basis, I investigated cases involving gunshot residue, blood types, DNA, hair and fiber, as well as things like paint, glass and adhesives."

In 1999, she moved from Ohio to Cape Coral in Florida where she remains a latent print examiner (another term for finger print investigator) with the police department. Away from the big city crime and fatalities of Cleveland, she finally had spare time on her hands and pursued her love of writing, which bore fruit this summer with the publication of Trace Evidence.

"I like to write because it stops me going insane," said Elizabeth, who admits there are at least "a handful" of unpublished novels on her bookshelf. "It took me five months to write the first draft of Trace Evidence, but the whole process took two years until the book was finally published. The key move was hiring a literary agent who put the book in front of the right people."

With America addicted to the CSI television shows, Becka's novel - a gritty story of murder and forensic investigation in Cleveland - is expected to win an audience among people fascinated by criminal forensic science, a genre that's been keenly followed by readers since Arthur Conan Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes.

"The TV shows definitely helped me to succeed in getting published," said the 41-year-old, who is "frantically" working on her follow-up book. "The CSI shows are technically accurate, but it is amazing how they always manage to get the case wrapped up so cleanly and quickly. It's never like that in reality."

Becka - who lists her heroes as Michael Connolly and Ridley Pearson among others - is also quick to point out that developing the elaborate plot for Trace Evidence, whose heroine is a determined single mother, was a significant leap from the murders she encountered on a regular basis in Cleveland.

"You get used to dealing with the bodies and detach your mind from the death, or else you get another job pretty quickly," she said. "The vast majority of murders are not that interesting. They are caused by drugs, arguments or actions in the heat of the moment. Very few are premeditated by more than 10 minutes.

"I've found that people are interested in the methodology behind forensic investigation. I've tried to capture that without going into the technology too heavily and then keep the plot moving along through human interaction."